sp;Additionally, even if I was a little more tired than I normally would be, I got a tremendous amount of stuff done during these three weeks. Obviously three weeks is a lot of time off, and most of us would hopefully be able to get a lot accomplished in that amount of time. Nevertheless, I do think that I put those two hours to good use – spending time working out, practicing dance, and checking tasks off of my todo list.
sp;Additionally, even if I was a little more tired than I normally would be, I got a tremendous amount of stuff done during these three weeks. Obviously three weeks is a lot of time off, and most of us would hopefully be able to get a lot accomplished in that amount of time. Nevertheless, I do think that I put those two hours to good use – spending time working out, practicing dance, and checking tasks off of my todo list.
from the comfy couch to our dining room table to do my reading, and am now sitting instead of lying down. The little things can make a big difference.
Lifehacking is an odd term, but the benefits that the activity bring are well worth getting past that initial connotation. To me, lifehacking is the process of making changes in your life, your routine, and the way you think, in order to make you more efficient, accomplish more, and generally getting yourself out of your way so that you can do the things you want.
Although the lay-person’s idea of hacking is some 35 year-old sitting in their parent’s basement breaking into the military’s computers, the reality is that hackers are generally just people that tinker with their computers in order to optimize them as much as possible. In order to determine the best ways that you can modify a system, you need to undergo a process of analysis to figure out how things fit together, and where you can make changes that will have the most benefit. Lifehacking is analogous to this process, but applied to our life, our bodies, and our minds, rather than to a computer.
Although some people refer to each of these pursuits individually (mindhacking, bodyhacking, and lifehacking), I lump them all together into one term, because I find it hard enough to accept that I go around using the word lifehacking, let alone two other equally awkward sounding terms.
My three week retreat since leaving my job is mostly devoted to this pursuit, in preparation for the start of school, but also simply because I would like to establish a number of new and positive habits before I am under the familiar, crushing burden of school work, at which point I will not be given an opportunity to affect new change in my life until the first term is complete.
Today I’m just going to review some of the items I have recently introduced into my daily routines and life, and how they have allowed me to become more efficient.
I have recently posted the first of three weeks worth of journals related to my experiment with biphasic sleep. The notion of biphasic sleep is that by sleeping in two intervals, rather than the more typical single interval, our sleep becomes more efficient, and thus we require less.
By introducing this routine into my life, I have been able to squeeze an extra two hours out of every day. It is pretty rare that you will be able to introduce a lifehack that makes you efficient enough to gain an extra two hours out of every day, no questions asked.
The counterpoint to this method of sleeping is that having an extra two hours of wakefulness may be a waste of time if you spend a lot of time sitting around bored. Personally I think boredom is the worst way to spend time imaginable, and so I diligently keep track of all my projects, ideas, and activities that I’m working on, and manage my tasks using the Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology (more on this further down). Whenever I’m bored, I review my TODO list, my projects, and see what I can work on and go from there. If nothing jumps out at me, or I feel like I just need to relax and take a break, I’ll read or play video games, and this is fine too.
The real key here is that if you are considering making this change in your life, be sure that you’ve got things with which to fill your time.
Quicksilver is an application that is available for Macs.
Before I go any further, I would like to preface this section by talking briefly about Macs (the computers). I firmly believe that Apple makes products with one of their goals being that the user experience should be paramount above all else. What this means is that using a Mac is almost always a pleasing experience. Not only have Apple designed their products this way, but they have built their operating system in a manner that allows and encourages third-party developers to design programs that adhere to these same principles. The end result is that you get a product that is very polished (not just superficially, but all the way up and down the user experience), and stays out of your way when you are using it.
I am not speaking as someone that has existed inside a Mac-only bubble his entire life – I grew up using Windows machines and went through my entire Computer Science undergrad using Windows machines. I lovingly purchased and cobbled together powerful PCs, managed and upgraded the machines, networked and tinkered with them, and hacked with them to make my experience with them as efficient as possible. Then I got a Mac and within a week realized that I would never again own another Windows machine unless absolutely necessary. Everything is that much easier, that much more efficient, and that much more pleasing (this last point is where most techies typically get hung up, making the assumption that is the only thing that Macs have going for them. That’s fine with me, but it’s inaccurate).
The Mac community is one that has developed around a shared appreciation for good design and efficiency, and as a result, Macs generally have a large amount of applications available that allow for these kinds of practices. Chief among those products is Quicksilver.
Quicksilver can be summarized as a keyboard launcher, but this understates how much it can do for you. In reality, Quicksilver allows you to do anything and everything rapidly and with just a few keystrokes. If I have a file on my desktop that I want to move to a folder on my computer called Adam/Cool_Stuff/Ninjas/Robot_Parrots_vs_Ninjas/, I can do this in two ways.
The standard way that many of us are used to doing is to click on the file on my desktop, hit cmd-x (ctrl-x for Windows users), then open a Finder or Explorer window, then click through our directory structure until we get to the appropriate folder, then hit cmd-v (ctrl-v for Windows users), pasting the file into the folder.
The Quicksilver way that I would accomplish this is to click the file on my desktop, hit cmd-escape (which brings up the Quicksilver window with my file selected), hit tab, type “move”, hit tab again, and type “Robot_”, and then enter. I don’t need to type the whole folder name because Quicksilver narrows down the list of places I can send the file as I continue typing until I’m left with just one result. This is significantly faster, does not require using the mouse for a lot of the work (which is inefficient compared to the keyboard), and does not leave me with extra windows open that I then need to close.
This is a pretty mundane example. How about a cooler one? Let’s say I’m reading an article online and I see a word I don’t know. Typically you would open a new tab, head over to http://dictionary.com, type in the word, read the definition, close the tab, and resume reading. With Quicksilver, I highlight the word, type cmd-escape (which this time brings up my Quicksilver window with the highlighted word selected), tab, and then start typing “define”. As soon as the results are narrowed down to “Define word”, I hit enter and a small window pops open showing me the definition for my word. I can close this window quickly once finished by typing cmd-w.
For both of these examples, it is very easy to counter by saying “Yah, well, I have my own way of doing that, and it’s plenty efficient, so there’s no need for me to bother with Quicksilver”. This is a fair counter-point, when you are looking at specific cases. However, the thing that makes Quicksilver not just handy, but essential, is that it provides an efficient way for you to do virtually everything you can possibly imagine, and always in a fairly intuitive manner. Additionally, Quicksilver provides plugins for virtually everything you can imagine. There’s an iTunes plugin, so that you can change your volume, change to the next track, request a new song in iTunes DJ, a
nd rate the current song, all with a minimal number of keystrokes and without having to leave the task you’re currently working on. There’s a websearch plugin so that you can use Quicksilver to instantly search whatever site you like with the search string of your choice, without having to go through the process of opening up a new tab, typing the website you want to search, finding the search box, entering the search string, and hitting enter.
Again, don’t look at the specific examples and tell yourself that you can do that in a different way. The reason that Quicksilver shines is that it allows you to do almost everything this quickly and effectively. Once you start tinkering with it and adding new plugins, you’ll be amazed that you were able to function without it.
Windows users – your best choice is something called Launchy (which I used at work). Launchy is better than nothing, but it doesn’t have the modular design that Quicksilver does, meaning that it doesn’t have anywhere near the comprehensiveness or number of plugins that Quicksilver does. Still, just adding a keyboard launcher can make you more efficient. Hitting alt-enter, and typing “excel” is generally going to be faster than using the mouse to click through a number times to get to Excel from the Start menu.
Getting Things Done (GTD)
Being organized and having effective time-management skills will both create more time for you. By having a clear head and an awareness of what tasks you have on your plate at any given time, you will be able to spend more time present in the moment, and waste less time trying to remember what that thing was that you had to do, and figure out what your next step is.
While many people will throw up their arms and claim “I’m just not good at being organized”, this is a cop-out. Organization and time-management are both skills that can be practiced and cultivated. Although some people will naturally be more intuitive at applying these skills, there is no reason that you cannot learn new skills to organize yourself, and new methods for coping with everything that life demands of us.
Getting Things Done is a methodology conceived of by David Allen. This method provides a workflow and a system for dealing with every new piece of information that comes at you, tracking your projects and tasks, and completing things in a timely manner. My mentor at Refractions, Krista Stellar, had been practicing GTD for a while before I started working with her, and it was something that I learned largely through osmosis. In spite of the many excellent things she taught me, I think that the introduction to GTD was the most significant thing that I took away from my time spent working with her.
The reason for this is simply that the GTD methodology can be applied to almost everything that comes at you in life, and staying organized and on top of things will give you a relaxed sense of control. Stress robs us of our ability to think clearly, our ability to enjoy ourselves, and our ability to remain present. By eliminating stress related to poor organization, you will remove this time-sink from your life, and gain more time to focus on the things that are important.
If you are interested in reading more about GTD, you can click the appropriate tag on the cloud to the right, or check out Merlin Mann’s 43Folders blog post here.
If taking on an entire new system seems like too much overhead right now, you can start by making two changes in your daily routine:
- Start maintaining a TODO list. Write down whatever you have to do, along with any information related to each item that is needed to accomplish it. When you finish an item, cross it off your TODO list. At the start of each day, create a new TODO list, and review your old TODO list. If there are items that you no longer care about, cross them off, and move over all of the remainingitems that did not get finished from the previous day’s TODO list.
- Apply the two minute rule. Whenever a new piece of information or task comes at you, deal with it immediately in two minutes. If you can finish it right away in two minutes or less, get it done. If you cannot finish it in two minutes, but it is something you will do soon, add it to your TODO list. If it is something that you need to file away, do so. Whatever it is, deal with it in two minutes.
Just by implementing these two rules, you will remove a lot of the overhead that is caused by letting new pieces of information come at you and simply sit in your inbox (physical or e-mail), or worse yet, in your head.
Remember the Milk (RTM)
Remember the milk is a web-application that integrates perfectly with the GTD methodology. Instead of needing to maintain a physical, or paper-based system, RTM allows you to maintain all of your tasks, projects, and todo lists online. Not only is all of this information available to you wherever you have access to the web, but it is also supported by an iPhone app and syncing software for other smartphones.
Although I won’t go into detail about RTM today (that is a topic for another time), I think that this is the most significant evolution I have made to my personal system since I began blogging about it.
Everyone likes to talk about multi-tasking at work, but typically what they really mean is that they’re browsing the web when they should be working on a spreadsheet. This kind of multi-tasking is inefficient, and should really be labelled “working with distractions”. Although I completely appreciate the need for healthy distraction and allow myself that same luxury, this is not the type of multi-tasking that I’m referring to.
The type of multi-tasking I’m talking about doesn’t even need to take place in front of a computer screen. When I’m referring to multi-tasking, I simply mean accomplishing more than one thing at once. If you take a few minutes to think about your daily routine, there are likely certain activities that you will do that include periods of time where you’re not doing anything. Some excellent examples from my own life are:
- Walking to and from work
- Working out
- Waiting for someone to meet me
- Getting ready in the morning
Walking to and from work and biking are essentially periods of down time for my mind. Sometimes it is important to have time to just let yourself zone out, and I encourage you to grant yourself this from time to time. However, the rest of the time, you could be putting your mind to work. One excellent way to accomplish this is using audiobooks and podcasts. Audiobooks are a great way to learn while you’re doing something physical, allowing you to focus your mind on something constructive while your body works physically. There are podcasts available on virtually every subject these days, and these present great opportunities to increase the breadth of your knowledge. Have you got a recurring TODO item like “learn Spanish”? Download an audio book or podcast related to this topic and get started.
Working out represents a decent amount of downtime, as your mind is not really working throughout, and you also need to rest your muscles in between each set. I find that with a set of free-weights at home, I can usually complete emptying the dishwasher and folding my laundry by the time I am done my workout, simply by getting up and working on these chores in between each set.
By making sure that you have a notebook and pencil with you whenever you go out,
and your iPod, you can ensure that you never have to sit around doing nothing while you wait for someone to meet you. You can work on brainstorming or planning out a project you have in mind with the notebook (and throw on music while you’re doing this), or just spend the time listening to an audiobook or podcast.
You can make your morning routine more efficient by pouring yourself a bowl of cereal and bringing it with you into the bedroom while you pick out what you’re going to wear for the day and do your hair. Some people have weird hang-ups about eating food anywhere but the kitchen and the dining room, but I don’t think there’s much validity to this (especially given that the bathroom is generally one of the cleanest places in your house. Let’s not talk about your keyboard; you’re not eating around that are you?). If your response to this is that you don’t eat breakfast in the morning and you save time that way, then you should re-evaluate your priorities. Saving time in the morning at the expense of your health is the wrong way to go – eat your breakfast, and make time for it by multi-tasking.
So those are some of the important lifehacks that I’ve taken on board, both recently and in the not-too-distant past. I recommend giving any of these a shot if you ever find yourself wishing that you had more time. Choose one of these that compels you, and commit yourself to trying it out for two weeks to see if it works for you. Whatever you do, make sure you keep one thing in mind: if you find yourself complaining about being bored, you are not allowed to complain about not having enough time.
I finished work last week, and had three weeks ahead of me. Prior to the end of work, I had been collecting a large number of projects that I wanted to tackle before school started. I will be writing later on about some of those, but today’s topic is related to what is probably the weirdest project on my list.
This project is to move from sleeping in one single unbroken phase (usually 8 hours), to a biphasic sleeping pattern, consisting of a core sleep at night, and a nap during the day.
There are many reasons for doing this, but the most significant is that by changing to this sleeping pattern, I am able to go from requiring about 8 hours of sleep to 6 hours (in theory). If you are reading this blog, you likely have some kind of passing interest in productivity, as I write about the subject fairly often. Can you think of a lifehack or productivity trick that you have implemented recently that has netted you an extra two hours of spare time everyday? Most of us cannot answer “yes” to that question. I, however, can, and that is what this entry is about.
Two hours may not seem like a very big number to you when you first read it, but let me put that into perspective. We spend about 8 hours of our day sleeping (typically), which leaves us with 16 hours of wakefulness during which we can actually do stuff. Adding an extra two hours onto that is an increase of 1/8th to the amount of time you have available to you. At the end of the week, that is an extra 14 hours within which to do things. If you prefer the longterm picture, let’s say I live to the age of 75. I have started this experiment at the age of 30, which means I can sleep biphasically for the next 45 years. That roughly translates to gaining an extra 5.5 years of life.
These claims probably sound grandiose, and that’s fine. Hacking your sleeping habits is certainly not for everyone. Bay’s initial reaction upon me mentioning this to her was “I don’t like this at all”. After discussing with her, we concluded that she didn’t like it for the following reasons:
- It’s weird
- We won’t get to go to bed together anymore
- She likes sleeping next to me
The first point is technically correct, but irrelevant. Something being weird is usually just an indication that something is different from the status quo. The virtue of simply being different from the status quo should never be a reason not to try something out. One of the more disappointing conversations I had recently was related to a friend telling me that he was a fan of the status quo, but without being able to provide any real validation to support this stance. The status quo is nothing other than what we are currently comfortable with due to familiarity.
The second point is totally valid. It’s important to both of us to spend time chatting in bed, cuddling, reading, being close to each other, and well… yah. Fortunately, this point was easy to mitigate. I could simply plan my core sleep so that I would go to bed when Bay would, and get up earlier. My original plan was to stay up later and wake up with Bay, but it would not be a problem to switch this up so that we could have time in the evening together.
The last point is kind of romantic, but not really relevant beyond that. The time we spend sleeping is time during which we are almost entirely oblivious to the world. Our body is resting and recovering from the day, and in order to do this effectively, it switches off our receptiveness to external stimuli. Although spending more time sleeping together is a romantic notion, I would rather have extra time that I could spend with Bay during my waking hours due to the fact that I’d accomplished more of my chores during the early morning when she was asleep.
After talking this through, and letting Bay know that I was simply conducting an experiment for three weeks to see how things went, she acquiesced (though she continued to shake her head at her weird husband), and I figured out what I would do. The plan was this:
- Core sleep of 4.5 hours from 11:00PM to 3:30AM
- Nap of 1.5 from 4:00PM to 5:30PM
The nap time would hopefully be adaptable (as would the core sleep, depending on when Bay was ready), but I have no guarantee of this, so I just chose what might feel like a reasonable time to get some shut eye once school starts.
The other thing I planned was to journal about the experience, so that I could become part of the many polyphasic sleepers on the internet that are logging their own experiences, and so that I could maintain some objective distance and look back and review how things are going. This is, after all, an experiment.
So, without further ado, here is the first week of my journal based on the experience:
Bi-phasic Sleep Journal – Week One
Started: August 17
Day 1 (Monday)
Discussed options with Bay, and agreed that going to sleep together was something we wanted to maintain. Went to bed at 11:00 with Bay, and set my alarm for 3:30, aiming for 4.5 hours of sleep (three intervals of ninety minutes each). Woke up around 1:30ish, went to bathroom. Checked clock to make sure I’m on track, and fell back asleep. Woke up again at 3:20, checked alarm, went to bathroom and got up.
Took me a little bit of time to get into gear. Worked out, reviewed e-mail, completed a task off my TODO list and started on another, this time reviewing and learning about AppleScript.
Starting to get a little bit sleepy. Going to head out of the house to attempt to snap out of it. Yawning.
Fell asleep quite easily, and napped for the full time. Woke up at one point and realized I had been dreaming. This had occurred within less than 30 minutes, as my iPod was still playing and I’d set it to shut off in 30 minutes. This is the first time in my experiment that I’ve actually felt compelled to fall back asleep after getting up.
Day 2 (Tuesday)
Went to sleep with Bay at 11, and stayed up until around 11:20 talking. Set my alarm for 4 to give myself 10 minutes to fall asleep and then 4.5 hours from then until I needed to wake up. Alarm went off at 4 (I didn’t wake up naturally before it this time), but it was quite easy to get up. I had obviously just finished a sleep cycle, as I was able to rise out of bed fairly quickly and didn’t feel groggy. Brushed my teeth, worked out, and started on a few projects. It’s now 6:00 and I still feel pretty on the ball.
Have not been yawning today, though it is now 12:30, and I can tell that my body is starting to prepare itself for a nap. My eyelids feel just slightly sandy.
Again fell asleep easily. I noted that I was partially aware of myself falling asleep, much like yesterday. Perhaps this is the doorway toward lucid dreaming.
I woke up briefly at 4:00 to check my alarm, out of fear that I was sleeping through it but this turned out to be baseless. Went back to sleep and woke up again at 4:23, and then got back to my routine. The most annoying part about sleeping is how greasy my face feels when I wake up – easily remedied by washing my face, still, annoying.
Otherwise I feel fully awake and refreshed. So far I’m enjoying biphasic.
Day 3 (Wednesday)
Again went to sleep at 11, aiming for consistency. This was probably the hardest time waking up yet. It wasn’t really hard per se, it was just difficult to drag myself out of bed. I think I may have been in the final stages of REM sleep, as I was in the middle of some kind of imagery when my alarm went off. The biggest thing I miss is th
at feeling of waking up from 8 hours of sleep. However, I suspect that that may just be a mental thing, rather than an actual physiological thing. Based on my performance (physical and mental) I don’t think I’m actually accumulating sleep debt, though that will remain to be seen toward the end of this week when I will feel most inclined to sleep in.
Falling into bed for the scheduled nap felt relaxing as always. I slept fairly soundly, waking up briefly before falling back asleep again, and woke up 10 minutes before my alarm went off – usually the indication of the end of my sleep cycle it seems.
Interestingly, when napping, I am usually much more aware of the process of me falling asleep, this time remaining conscious throughout the process of my limbs twitching a little bit prior to actually falling asleep. Again no trouble waking up, but I sure do hate the greasy feeling I have on my face whenever I take a nap. I’ve established the following routine upon waking up from a nap: brush mouthguard, brush teeth, wash face with cold water. This process is a familiar routine and helps get my mind back into the state of wakefulness. The cold water on my face feels great and refreshing.
Day 4 (Thursday)
I got up easily, but am finding it fairly difficult to stay focused and awake an hour later (5:00AM). This is the first morning where I have started things off by working out. I’ve made tea and starting off with some cognitive tasks – we’ll see how things go.
After the rough start for the first hour, I’m back on track. The tea may have helped, or it could have been sitting down and doing something that demanded interaction and attention (today that was playing Super Street Fighter 2 – the previous three days it was working out). One thing that I find really nice about sleeping biphasically is that I no longer need to stress out about getting to bed too late.
Typically the amount of sleep that I get would be tied to when I get to bed, as I would not be able to sleep in past my alarm, which I would set to go off to give me enough time to wake up, get ready, and head out the door for work or school. With biphasic sleeping, since I’m typically getting up four hours before I would need to leave for work or anything, I have tons of leeway to stay up a little later than I would normally, without it impacting my ability to get the 4.5 hours that I need for my core sleep.
Being up early has dramatically improved my ability to devote some time to things that I’ve wanted to accomplish previously, such as dancing – it’s pretty easy to book an hour of practice when I don’t have any other demands on my time, so that’s what I’ve been doing from 6:00 – 7:00 in the morning.
Day 5 (Friday)
It’s getting easier to wake up in the morning, but getting up from the nap can still be a little bit frustrating, as I’m not used to the usual feeling of ‘restarting the engine’ in the afternoon that comes from waking from a nap. This weekend will be a good test of the biphasic sleeping pattern, and seeing how it fits in with the rest of my life. I have a bit of a dualistic nature when it comes to activity. During the week, I’m very focused on tasks, exercise, and a well-timed schedule. On the weekends, I love hanging out with friends, socializing, partying, and letting things flow in a manner that is much less regimented. Probably most significantly, while I still aim to get the right amount of sleep (I truly believe that getting good rest, drinking lots of water, exercising, and stretching are the closest you can get to a fountain of youth), the times I go to sleep are completely contingent on whatever I end up doing on Friday and Saturday. If I’m going out to the bar (rare), or heading to a friend’s place for drinks, it’s quite likely that I may not actually get into bed until 2:00AM the next morning. In the past, as long as I made sure I woke up around 9 or 10, I would get enough rest, and not lose my entire day (is there anything worse than sleeping in to noon? I hate doing this).
I’m heading out to a hiphop show with Brooke, Jo, Piper, and Jesse tonight at Plan B (WTF), and suspect that this will lead to a late evening. My intention is to act no differently than I normally would. If biphasic sleeping does not allow me to do the things that I normally would, it isn’t going to be a useful thing for me.
Nothing specific to report about my nap today, other than to state that the worst part of biphasic so far is definitely having to go through the waking process a second time every day. When I say waking process, I mean, opening my eyes, shutting off my alarm, getting out of bed, brushing my teeth, cleaning my mouthguard, washing my face, and having something to eat to get things rolling.
The good news is that this is really the only bad thing I can say about it, and I absolutely love the way I feel the rest of the time. My energy levels are more consistent, and I feel motivated and energized throughout the day, rather than experiencing surges of energy at specific points during the day, followed by periods completely lacking in energy. Getting up at 3:30, which sounds utterly disgusting without any context, is awesome when you consider that I wake up easily and feeling fully rested, and then have three hours within which I can work on whatever I like before I even need to start thinking about getting ready for work, school, etc.
Day 6 (Saturday)
So, I had a good night last night, and after Plan B, we went to The Mint to hang out for a bit and chat before finding our separate ways home. I would elaborate more on the night, but this is a journal related to biphasic sleeping, and not a blog or a Facebook status update, so I’ll stay focused.
I got in at 2:00 AM this morning, and I usually need about a half hour to wind down prior to being ready for bed. Additionally, I had been drinking at the club, so I was a still a little tipsy when my head hit the pillow at 2:30 (I did, however, make a point of drinking two large bottles of water, as I always do, to ensure that I didn’t wake up feeling de-hydrated). I set my alarm for 4.5 hours later, and at 7:00, got up out of bed, once again, feeling refreshed and ready for the day. Honestly, I was pretty amazed. I figured that being out and getting to sleep later would have a detrimental effect on the whole system and play havoc with my new sleeping pattern, but it integrated perfectly.
The thing that I find fascinating is that the only real requirement here is that I get 4.5 hours of core sleep at some point before the next day. With a monophasic sleeping pattern, the main requirement is that you get 7.5 hours of sleep before you get back up. If you go to bed later, that’s acceptable, provided that you stay in bed long enough to meet this requirement. You can then reset your sleeping pattern by going to sleep at a reasonable hour the following night and getting 7.5 hours again. Biphasically, it’s the same thing. I just need to make sure that I get 4.5 hours of sleep during my core sleep, and can then reset again by taking my nap at the usual time, and going from there.
So, remarkably, I was able to go out to the club, have some drinks with some friends, come home, go to sleep at 2:30, sleep for 4.5 hours, and then wake up ready to go about my day as normal at 7:30 the next day. Pretty incredible isn’t it? There is one drawback to combining inebriation with biphasic sleeping, and this is that instead of having eight hours within which my liver can process and extract the alcohol from my blood, it only has 4.5 hours. If you’re in the habit of large and frequent drinking binges, you’ll be able to wake up fine, but you’re probably going to get out of bed and walk straight in to a wall.&
nbsp; Then again, if you’re in the habit of frequent drinking binges, you’re probably not the sort of person that is particularly keen on being productive and hacking your life and your sleeping patterns like I am.
I met up with Davin and Jay this morning for breakfast (after being up for 2.5 hours), and then hung out and played Magic with them. After they left, I took my nap at 5:00PM, and then woke up, got ready, and headed out with Dan and Kellie for some drinks and conversation (great day!). Fall asleep for my nap has consistently been easy so far, and once again I woke up just before my alarm went off. After finishing up at the Bent Mast, I came home, tidied things up, and then went to bed at 1:45AM.
Day 7 (Sunday)
The end of the first week of my experiment! My alarm woke me at 6:30, and I got straight up out of bed and started the day. One of the things that I absolutely love about this sleeping habit is that I no longer feel like a slave to my sleeping tendencies. I recognize how cheesy that sounds, so let me try to explain. Normally on the weekends, I would go to sleep whenever I was ready to, and then set some time that I wanted to get up. I would try to ensure that I was getting 7.5 hours of sleep, but if I went to bed at 2:30 (I really enjoy getting stuff done late at night on the weekends), I would usually aim to arise at 9:00 in the morning, which meant I would only get 6.5 hours. In these cases, one of two things would happen: I would hit the snooze button 6 or 7 times before I was finally able to tear myself out of bed, OR, I would groggily pull myself out of bed and spend most of the day with low energy levels and require caffeine to rev myself up (which would then lead to further spikes in my energy levels).
Now that I’m sleeping biphasically, this cycle is shattered. The first key is that I am always aware of what time I go to bed, and what time I need to get up in order to ensure that I get three full cycles of sleep (at 90 minutes a cycle, that is 4.5 hours). By doing this, I’m ensuring that I never have my alarm go off and wake me up in the middle of REM sleep, and this is the situation that leads to you feeling completely blindsided when that alarm goes off. Getting woken in your REM sleep is the worst thing that you can do, as it robs you of the most important part of your sleep, and precludes your body from going through it’s natural process of gradually coming out of that deep, deep slumber. Even if I stay up late, I don’t need to worry about sleeping in through my day; even if I don’t get into bed until 4:00AM, the latest I’m going to get up is 9:00 the next morning (allowing myself 30 minutes to fall asleep, and then 4.5 hours of actual sleep). I know this sounds ridiculous, but I actually feel like I’ve leveled up. Being in control of my sleep, and not the other way around, is amazing.
This is a significant discovery for me, and I think coming to this conclusion is enough reason for me to adopt and maintain this habit beyond the end of the experiment (which will be over in two more weeks).
Although initially I was concerned that having to nap would play havoc with my scheduling, it has not been an issue so far. So far I have been able to shift my nap as needed within about a four-hour window, which is quite a lot of leeway. I would not want to leave my nap much later than this, as I would start to feel a dip in energy (though probably less so than the middle of the day on a monophasic sleep schedule), and I would be pushing my nap and the next phase of my core sleep pretty close together. To really remain consistent, it is ideal to have your nap half-way between your previous and next core phases of sleep. I currently am not working (taking the time off to prepare for the Fall, when school will start), so I have the luxury of a fairly open schedule. I will have to see how and when I can fit napping into my schedule come the start of school, but unless there is something drastic preventing me from doing so, I will be aiming to maintain this new habit.
This marks the end of my first week of experimentation with biphasic sleeping, and the end of the first set of journaling. Although I had originally planned to publish the entire journal at the end of three weeks, this starting to reach a good length, and I think it makes more sense to publish on a weekly basis. I will continue to keep journals for the remaining two weeks, so keep it locked if you find this subject matter interesting.
You ever have those periods of time when you feel like there are things you should be doing, and you’re not doing them? Or where you can tell there’s something intangible pulling at the back of your head, but you just can’t place your finger on it? Or maybe you come home from work and feel like you should actually be doing something, but instead you just sit in front of the TV?
I’m sure you have, because we’re all human, and this is just a natural part of the cycle we go through on a daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly basis (the frequency is different for everybody).
The more I learn to practice GTD effectively, the less often I feel this way, as I can allow my brain to embrace the mind like water ideal, and return to old ideas when I see fit. Still, it is impossible to feel and act productively one hundred percent of our time, and so the goal must be to maximize the amount of time we can exist in this state, and learn to accept (and yes, minimize, though this is less important than acceptance) the times when we do need to feel the way I currently do.
As an exercise to break out of this mental state, I write. As of late, two things have been on my mind more anything else: squash and dancing.
I hav been dancing a lot lately, as we are running two jam sessions a week at Vibestreet Dance, and that requires that I come up with something to teach twice a week. I can’t even rely on teaching the same thing twice, as the same students may show up, and I end up feeling guilty about not being able to provide something new to them. Maybe this is just something that I need to get over, as part of this whole exercise should be of benefit to myself, not just my students. A teacher that is not gaining something from each lesson that they teach is not missing out on part of the teaching experience, as are their students.
I have taken a couple of workshops lately, and they have been very helpful in showing me new ways of teaching something, as well as many new techniques that I would like to work on and incorporate into my own styles of movement. Recently, I’ve been given lessons in breaking, locking, popping, and house dancing. That’s a lot of stuff! Getting lessons in these new styles of dance is awesome, and is opening up my awareness and broadening my own inspiration to a great extent. However, this only results in frustration if I can’t find the time to actually practice what I’m learning. House, locking, and breaking are all very new styles to me, and really require that I take the time to sit down by myself and practice the basics. This is hard to do at home because of the way I have been feeling.
Even though I’m a reasonably experienced popper, I will never be fully satisfied with my level of skill (this is kind of a general theme for my approach to things I’m truly passionate about). I often hesitate to teach something in class that I haven’t had the time to sit down with and internalize. Part of the solution here, I suppose, is just accept that nobody’s perfect, and that even if I’m still learning something, I can help the class with it. One of the things that I really want to avoid is attempting to show my students something that I’m still learning myself, and in doing so, teach them bad habits, or end up getting them frustrated as I cannot break it down very well.
If you’ve read through the paragraph above, you’ve just seen me provide myself with some therapy, as I think I’ve come up with the solution to my first problem – just do it, and don’t worry about whether or not the class is disappointed that I’m not perfect at a move. We all need to learn, and there’s nothing wrong with learning along with the rest of the class. Even better if I can provide a tiny bit of direction to help them along the right path.
The other thing that I think I probably need is a couple of sessions in the park with my ipod to just go over the techniques that I’ve been taught lately and internalize those. In GTD we have the concept of an open loop – something that requires action and is tugging at our mind. Everything that I’ve learned lately is sitting in that same space. It’s occupying space in my head, saying “You should put some time into working on me, otherwise you’ll lose this knowledge”.
The other thing tugging at my mind has been squash. Although my opportunity to increase the amount of time and effort I’m putting into dancing has been incredible, and something that I’ve wanted to do for a looooong time, it’s taken away from my ability to play squash. Although I’ve certainly been keeping myself fit (dancing requires a lot of energy, and I’m riding my bike as often as possible), I can feel the rust starting to creep up on my squash game, and this drives me nuts. Part of the reason for that is because I trained so hard this past season, and was really feeling good about where my efforts had led me.
Although all of our hobbies should be things that we do for fun, and don’t become a burden on our mind, it’s difficult for someone like me to make that leap and just let something be. That’s the nature of life though – if you want to do more of one thing, you are going to have to sacrifice something else.
In an effort to have my cake and eat it to, one of the projects I have set aside for myself to take on once I end my tenure at work, is biphasic sleep. The notion of biphasic sleep sounds extremely silly when you initially hear about it: go to sleep more frequently in order to sleep less overall. With one single phase of sleep during a twenty-four hour period, our body generally requires eight hours of sleep. However, by breaking our sleep up, we are able to train our body to fall into REM sleep more quickly (which is the part of sleep that is evidently important), and thus require less sleep overall.
Although some people are absolutely insane and have managed to function quite effectively (arguably more effectively, if some of the blogs out there are to be believed) on as little as six twenty-minute naps a day (that’s a mere two hours of sleep in a twenty-four hour period!), the goal I’m setting for myself is quite a bit more modest, and is based on the Hispanic tradition of siesta. The aim is to reduce my core sleep period to about five or six hours, and supplement that with a twenty-minute nap in the evening. In doing so, I will be able to create (as though by magic) an extra two hours of spare time, everyday.
This almost sounds too good to be true, and it very well may be. However, I enjoy an experiment as much as the next guy, so we’ll see how things go. I could end up with an extra two hours of spare time every night (which may also be essential, if the workload required for Law is what I’m told it is), or I could fail spectacularly, in which case I will have spent a couple of weeks deprived of sleep, and return to my normal monophasic sleeping schedule. The worse-case scenario doesn’t strike me as that bad, so why not try it right?
Anyhow, I think that’s a sufficient ramble. Our drop-in sessions at Vibestreet have been growing steadily, and last Monday we had about twelve people in attendance to learn some popping from myself, and some breaking from Steve (good strength training!). If you’re interested in learning more about any of this, drop a comment and I can blog and elaborate further.